There was a time when doctors couldn't get anywhere near Sherri Buffington with a needle. "I was deathly afraid of needles," recalls the 44-year-old senior legal secretary from Sicklerville, N.J. "I've been petrified of needles since I was a little kid."
Then in 2004, Buffington was diagnosed with diabetes. When oral medications didn't control her disease, her doctor prescribed an injectable prescription medication along with insulin. Taking these drugs meant she would have to inject herself, sometimes three times a day. "I was apprehensive," she says. "But I felt that if this was going to help me, I'd have to grin and bear it and just do it."
Sometimes, living with diabetes can seem like a full-time job -- trying to
keep up with everything you need to do for proper diabetes care.
"Diabetes is a very time-consuming disease to manage well," says
Karmeen Kulkarni, MS, RD, CDE, and former president of health care and
education for the American Diabetes Association. "The medication, the food,
the physical activity -- you add life in general to that whole picture and it
ends up being quite challenging."
Buffington is far from the only diabetes patient with needle anxiety. More than a third of people with diabetes approach their injections with a sense of dread, and nearly as many feel that injections are the hardest part of managing their condition. The fear can be severe enough to prevent some diabetes patients from taking the medicines they need to control their blood sugar. In fact, one survey found that more than half of patients skipped insulin injections from time to time, often because they feared the pain.
"I always tell patients that having a fear of needles is normal and natural," says Evan Sisson, PharmD, a diabetes educator and assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy. Sisson and other diabetes educators help diabetes patients overcome their fear of shots, so it doesn't become an obstacle to controlling their blood sugar.
Why Injections Are Important
Everyone with type 1 diabetes must take insulin injections, because their body doesn't produce this hormone. People with type 2 diabetes take injected insulin or other prescription injectables when pills and lifestyle changes aren't lowering their blood glucose enough.
Why injections? “Injections are the most effective," says Robert R. Henry, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the University of California, San Diego and president of Medicine & Science at the American Diabetes Association.
Skipping insulin injections can be extremely dangerous for people with type 1 diabetes. When glucose isn't available for energy, the body starts burning fat instead. That can lead to a state called ketoacidosis, in which acids called ketones build up and poison the body.
With type 2 diabetes, the risk of skipping medications or injections isn't as immediate. But over time, fluctuating blood sugar levels can damage organs like the eyes, kidneys, and heart. Research has found that people who are afraid of their insulin injections have poorly controlled blood sugar and experience more diabetes-related complications. Overcoming needle anxiety can be a key element to preventing these complications.
Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!
Your level is currently
If the level is below 70 and you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.
People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.
Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.
However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.
Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.
One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
Thank you for signing up for the WebMD Diabetes Newsletter!
You'll find tips and tricks as well as the latest news and research on Diabetes.
Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?
Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.